Tuesday, August 07, 2007

In a pickle

Here are the latest batch of pickles - beets and refrigerator pickles. Both are really easy to make, and only take a little patience to wait til they are pickled enough to eat. The recipe we use for the fridge pickles works great for cukes, carrots, green beans, onion, garlic, peppers & green tomatoes. We use the gallon jars our honey comes in for these, but you can use smaller mason jars too. The beets are more of a sweet pickle, but we add 3/4 tsp of salt and grind the spices with a mortar & pestle to get the best flavor.

Another day's harvest - green & yellow wax beans, maybe a couple pounds, cukes, and two giant carrots. We only did 6 cuke plants this year (we had 18 last year and got swamped with cukes). We will probably plant more cukes and green beans next year though, as we just might have gotten the whole pickle thing figured out finally. Most 'official' canning guides call for water bath processing them for long enough to sterilize. They may be sterile, but they aren't as good. We're experimenting with traditional food preservation methods and planning to try very little processing to keep the flavor and texture. If it worked for our foremothers, it will work for us. This book, Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation is a great source of ideas for old-fashioned techniques. We already started lacto-fermented kraut and chard stems using recipes from this book. When the tomatoes ripen, we'll try sun-drying and packing in oil, along with other recipes in the book.

Here's our first blackberry pick of the year. Last summer, the berries were plentiful, but not very sweet. The sun and rainfall need to balance out just right for a sweet juicy harvest. So far we're looking at a ton of fat luscious berries this year. Can't wait to make pies & cobbler! And finally, all the hens are starting to lay. Some in the nest boxes, some on the coop floor, some under a bush in the henyard, and some in the hay mow. Rather than pen them up to force them to lay where we want, we'll just keep checking all their favorite spots each day. It's fun to have an easter egg hunt all year long, especially with such a colorful variety of eggs. The two smaller ones (front and right) are from Peeps and Poops, the Black Stars. So now we have 7 hens, 3 different breeds, providing good food for us. The eggs are sitting in about 10 pounds of barley that our neighbor grew and harvested. We pondered brewing with it, and baking with it, but I htink we'll seed most of it in the pasture for Stella to enjoy. Barley matures fast and makes an excellent grazing crop. And anything she misses will reseed for next spring. We'll save some back for spring seeding in our hoped-for grain patch.

Plans for the Seven Trees gather are moving right along. The first invitations went out (more to come), and we'll be picking up the Highland beef for the burgers this weekend. Hopefully we'll get RSVP's soon, so we can make sure to have enough food, drink & fun for everyone.

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